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Effects of Female Mentors on Women in Engineering

May 22, 2017

Nilanjana Dasgupta, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, made headlines in 2105 for her study suggesting that female undergraduates in engineering were much more likely to participate in problem-solving group activities when they made up more than half the group. Dasgupta and Tara Dennehy, a graduate student in social psychology UMass-Amherst, have new study out this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that could help engineering programs further support women.

For the paper, “Female Peer Mentors Early in College Increase Women's Positive Academic experiences and Retention in Engineering,” the authors had 150 female engineering students meet with peer female or male mentors, or no mentors at all, once a month for a year. Students’ experiences were surveyed three times in the first year and once again a year later. Survey responses and retention data showed that female mentors positively influenced mentees’ retention, as well as their feelings of confidence, motivation and belonging and desire to continue in engineering as a career. Male mentors had no such effect. 

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Colleen Flaherty

Colleen Flaherty, Reporter, covers faculty issues for Inside Higher Ed. Prior to joining the publication in 2012, Colleen was military editor at the Killeen Daily Herald, outside Fort Hood, Texas. Before that, she covered government and land use issues for the Greenwich Time and Hersam Acorn Newspapers in her home state of Connecticut. After graduating from McGill University in Montreal in 2005 with a degree in English literature, Colleen taught English and English as a second language in public schools in the Bronx, N.Y. She earned her M.S.Ed. from City University of New York Lehman College in 2008 as part of the New York City Teaching Fellows program. 

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